United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley focuses on education, income, health

PARKERSBURG – Improving the quality of life of area residents through a focus on education, income and health is primary mission of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The UWAMOV serves Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wirt and Wood counties in West Virginia, as well as Athens County and the communities of Belpre and Little Hocking in Ohio.

Executive Director Andrea Shirey said the organization gives money to a variety of organizations throughout the area and surrounding counties, as well as running programs through the United Way to benefit area residents.

“It’s an opportunity for people to be part of the solution,” she said. “The United Way provides a unique opportunity for anyone to get involved and give back.”

The United Way’s new fundraising season begins Sept. 6, but officials plan to hold kickoff events and announcements leading up to the start of the campaign. Shirey said 99 cents of every dollar raised stays in the local community.

This year’s goal is to raise $830,000, the highest goal in history for the organization. Last year the United Way raised $815,000, surpassing that year’s goal of $800,000. In 2007-08 United Way hit an all-time high of more than $829,000, a record Shirey hopes they can break this year.

To help with that, Shirey said she hopes more people will join the United Way Pacesetters, a collection of donors who contribute $500 or more. The Pacesetters have their names included in the organization’s annual Pacesetters list and receive updates throughout the year of upcoming events.

“Those are the individuals that are leading the way,” Shirey said. “Their support is critical to being able to do what we do.”

But Shirey said fundraising is only one aspect of the United Way.

“That is a big part of what we do. That’s not all we do,” she said.

United way has three areas of focus – education, income and health – and sponsors six community-wide initiatives.

* West Virginia 2-1-1 is a toll-free hotline which connects callers to trained call specialists 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Visit www.wv211.org for more information.

* The FamilyWize Prescription Drug Program gives reduced-cost medicine for children and families with limited or no prescription drug coverage.

* Back-to-School Backpack Program annually provides children with school supplies.

* Warming Hands and Hearts Energy Initiative provides utility assistance for families.

* Wood County Food Co-op and FEMA EFSP is a collaborative of 18 local food pantries.

* Volunteer MOV connects volunteers with service opportunities throughout the region. Visit www.volunteermov.org for more information or to find volunteer opportunities.

The initiatives are in addition to numerous partnerships between United Way and area charitable and service organizations, Shirey said.

“There is always something going on,” she said.

The United Way held its annual Day of Action on June 21, involving hundreds of area residents who volunteered their time to different organizations and completed various community projects.

“June 21 is the longest day of the year, so you have the most hours to volunteer,” Shirey said.

Leading up to the event, more than 200 employees of area companies had pledged their time, with projects ranging from food drives to beautification projects. Shirey said the event was part of a world-wide effort to have people give back to their communities.

The offices of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley are located at 935 Market St. in downtown Parkersburg. Officials can be reached at 1-304-580-0570 or online at www.uwamov.com.